Travel and Adventure

Feast Your Eyes on Harry Potter's World of Food

In honour of the wizard, we salivate through his descriptions of knickerbocker glory ice cream and the occasional mouldy haggis. Thursday, 2 November

By Rebecca Rupp

All seven of the Harry Potter books are awash in references to food, starting with Dudley Dursley’s birthday Knickerbocker Glory, an ice-cream treat that Harry got the tail end of, since Dudley complained that it didn’t have enough ice cream on top.

The Knickerbocker Glory seems to have started off as an American soda-fountain treat, but was adopted by ice cream fans in Britain, where it continues to be adored. It’s served in a tall glass and consists of alternating scoops of vanilla and strawberry ice cream, fresh fruit, strawberry, peach, or chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a cherry. It sounds like a yummy pick for a Potter birthday.

On the opposite end of the Potter food scale is the dreadful buffet laid out for the deathday party of Nearly Headless Nick, one of Hogwarts School’s resident ghosts, which featured rotten fish, mouldy cheese, a grey cake shaped like a tombstone, and maggoty haggis. (Get the real scoop on haggis here.) Almost as awful is the food concocted by Hagrid, Hogwarts’s gigantic groundskeeper: rock-hard rock cakes, stoat sandwiches, and suspicious casseroles containing the odd talon.

Much of the food in the Potter canon, however, comes straight from classic British cooking. Harry and his classmates breakfast on sausages, kippers, porridge, fried tomatoes, and toast with marmalade, and dine on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, lamb chops, steak-and-kidney pie, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, treacle tart, trifle, and spotted dick. This last, the recipient of perhaps the world’s most snigger-promoting name for a dessert, is a traditional steamed fruit pudding served with hot custard sauce. (See a recipe here.) The “spotted” refers to the currants, raisins, and other dried fruits dotted throughout the pudding; “dick,” at best culinary guess, is just possibly a corruption of the last syllable of pudding or a take on the word dough. Mrs. Patmore, with a straight face, served it to the aristocratic Crawley family on Downton Abbey.

Harry’s favourite, on the other hand, is treacle tart. Dinah Bucholz, author of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, assures us, we’ll all like if we like pecan pie. Treacle is the British term for syrup made from refining sugar cane: basically, it’s molasses, available as either golden syrup (light molasses) or black treacle (dark molasses).

Mrs. Weasley at the overcrowded Burrow (seven kids and a ghoul) similarly turns out traditional British dishes, though occasionally with a boost from a magic wand. The Weasleys eat chicken-and-ham pie, bacon sandwiches, roast potatoes and salads fresh from the Weasley garden (infested with gnomes) and meatballs with onion sauce. For dessert, there’s homemade strawberry ice cream and the kids are sent off to bed with mugs of hot chocolate. It’s a welcome change for Harry who, when at home with the Dursleys, is often confined to his room and fed on bowls of canned soup stuffed through the cat flap.

Best of the Potter universe foods, however, may be those that come solely from the wizard world. Who wouldn’t want to at least try Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (good luck at avoiding liver, tripe, and spinach), or Cauldron Cakes? Or selections from the stock of Honeydukes, the famous sweets shop in the all-wizard town of Hogsmeade, which sells Jelly Slugs, Pepper Imps, Ice Mice (“hear your teeth chatter and squeak!”), Sugar Quills, and exploding bonbons? Or the mysterious, but legendarily delicious, butterbeer?

For adult Potter fans, however, the best way to celebrate Harry’s birthday may be with a glass of “liquid luck” known as Felix Felicis. A recipe, from the Foodchants blog, combines dark rum, palm jaggery syrup, orange bitters, lime juice, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dollop of rose wine. If taken in excess, Slughorn warns, it causes “giddiness, recklessness, and dangerous overconfidence.” Otherwise, you may just feel lucky.

Is it real British food or from the wizard world? Take the quiz.